No. 22 Missouri (2-0) extended it’s road-winning streak to 11 games Saturday against a testy Arkansas State (0-2) team that boasted a high level of confidence in the days leading up to the game. Mizzou’s road streak is the third best in the nation. The only teams with more consecutive road wins are the last two national champions—Ohio State (14) and Florida State (12).
A win is a win, but like many top-25 games from this weekend, it sure wasn’t pretty. Here are five takeaways from Missouri’s 27-20 victory in Jonesboro.
1. The offense really misses Russell Hansbrough
Russell Hansbrough was limited again this week with an ankle injury he sustained in the season opener. Hansbrough carried the ball five times for 15 yards, but didn’t touch the ball after the first snap of the third quarter. His north-south movement was notably decreased, and he had difficulty cutting corners or turning up field.
Hansbrough’s backup, sophomore Ish Witter, was mostly ineffective. He did have one nice carry for 27 yards, but ended with only 44 yards on 11 carries. Because of this, Mauk ended up carrying the load on the ground. The scrambling QB had a game-high 75 rushing yards on 10 carries, and was 16-36 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions. While Mauk’s rushing performance was impressive, it wasn’t necessarily a good sign for the Tigers.
If Hansbrough doesn’t return to 100% by the time the Tigers enter the thick of their SEC schedule, and his backups aren’t getting the job done, it could be very difficult for them to three-peat as champions in the SEC East.
2. Kentrell Brothers is a tackling machine
Last week against Southeast Missouri State, LB Kentrell Brothers had a career-high 16 tackles, as well as a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown. Brothers matched his career high Saturday at Arkansas State, and added two interceptions, the second of which sealed the game. Brothers was all over the field for the second week in a row. Whether it was pressuring the quarterback, plugging run holes, or disrupting the pass game, the All-SEC linebacker seems to be anchoring this Missouri defense.
In his press conference Monday, coach Gary Pinkel said the two or three seconds it might take a defender to read and react to a play are gone for Brothers.
“What he’s doing right now, he’s just going,” Pinkel said of Brothers. “There’s no thinking.”
That certainly looks to be the case through two games. If Brothers can keep this pace up into conference play, he could very well earn an All-American bid. He is already the SEC’s leading returning tackler, with 122 tackles last season. So far, he’s on track to beat that total through eight games.
3. Charles Harris is the new face of ‘D-line Zou’
NFL linemen Aldon Smith, Sheldon Richardson, Kony Ealy and Shane Ray have bolstered the reputation of Missouri’s defensive line the last several years, earning it the affectionate title ‘D-line Zou.’ DT Harold Brantley was poised to be the next big-name pass-rusher for Missouri this season, but injuries he sustained in a car accident this summer have sidelined him for the season, creating many preseason questions regarding the legitimacy of this year’s line. Charles Harris has answered those questions.
The 6-3, 255-pound DE had six tackles against Arkansas States—including 4 1/2 for loss—to go along with two sacks and two hurries. One of his sacks came in a crucial third-and-long situation late in the third quarter when the game was tied 17-17. Missouri scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Harris picked up where he left off in Missouri’s opener, in which he tallied four tackles—1 1/2 for loss—and forced a fumble that the Tigers recovered. It is safe to say that Harris has filled the role of the primary pass-rusher on ‘D-line Zou.’ Because he’s only sophomore, Missouri fans still have plenty of time to watch his talents unfold.
4. Drew Lock is not taking Maty Mauk’s job
Freshman QB Drew Lock turned heads over the course of Missouri’s three fall scrimmages. The Kansas City native passed three other quarterbacks to win the backup job entering week one. In his collegiate debut, Lock continued to impress. He was 6-8 passing for 138 yards and threw a 78-yard touchdown to Tyler Hunt. Amid the buzz, some Missouri fans may have been wondering if Drew Lock might threaten Maty Mauk’s starting job, as Mauk did to James Franklin in 2013.
This is not the case.
Lock came into the Arkansas State game the series after Mauk threw his first interception. Lock’s first and only pass of the game was an interception off a tipped pass. Mauk played the remainder of the game, and sparked a 17-3 second-half surge that put the Red Wolves away.
There’s no doubt Lock can play, but the youngster still has a lot to learn. Barring injury, Mauk will be the starter this season. Still, the future is certainly bright for Missouri if Lock can develop under Mauk and quarterback coach Andy Hill.
5. Corey Fatony is a freshman phenom
Missouri’s punter and kickoff specialist is a freshman from Franklin, Tennessee named Cory Fatony, and he’s something of a phenom. Fatony punted the ball six times for a net of 299 yards against Arkansas State. His best three attempts were downed at the 20, the 11, and the six-yard lines. One punt was nearly downed at the one-yard line, but was ruled a touchback.
Fatony kicked off six times for a total of 386 yards, and had three touchbacks, two of which went out of the end zone. He has a very strong leg, and improved his timing on punts significantly throughout camp. Pinkel said after the game, “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a freshman come out and punt like he’s punted.” If the offense struggles to move the ball this season, the role this freshman will play could become monumental.